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White House: No deal with Salvation Army

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer  

By Major Garrett
CNN White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House on Tuesday denied cutting a deal to gain Salvation Army support of the president's faith-based initiative in exchange for a regulation protecting some religious charities' practice of not hiring homosexuals.

"No. Absolutely not," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said when asked if there had been such a deal. "Never has been. Never has been."

Meeting with GOP senators on Capitol Hill, Vice President Dick Cheney said the president's faith-based initiative does not require organizations to change their views.

Message Board: Gay rights  

"A key part of the president's faith-based initiative is to make certain that in order to acquire or to participate in providing these social services with government funds, we not require fundamental changes in the underlying principles and organizing doctrines, if you will, of the organizations that participate," Cheney said. "That has been a consistent policy throughout, it is not intended to discriminate against anybody."

At issue is a front-page story in Tuesday's edition of The Washington Post that asserts the Salvation Army vowed to lend its political support to the faith-based initiative in exchange for a new federal regulation that would protect it and other religious organizations from having to hire homosexuals or provide domestic partner benefits. Asked if the Salvation Army misread the administration's position, he said: "Correct. And they've been advised of that."

Fleischer said the administration supports pending House legislation that adheres to current federal civil rights laws.

"It's important to fully comply with the civil rights laws. And the faith-based legislation as passed by the Judiciary Committee, with hardly any Democrats voting against it, fully complies with civil rights laws," Fleischer said.

However, federal law currently allows religious groups to discriminate against homosexuals in hiring and in the awarding of benefits. And while the language in the House bill forbids religious groups from discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex, age or disability, it does not forbid discrimination against homosexuals.

Some states and cities, however, have passed ordinances or laws forbidding religious groups to discriminate against homosexuals in hiring and benefits.

According to the Post, the Salvation Army had suggested wording to the Office of Management and Budget on a new regulation that would prevent state and local governments that receive federal funds from requiring religious organizations to adopt hiring practices or create benefit programs that are "inconsistent with the beliefs and practices" of the religious group.

• The Salvation Army

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